The Hamilton Spectator

AI a powerful new tool for maintenanc­e


What if you could prevent a very bad day before it happens?

What kind of a bad day? For example, you put all your family’s laundry in the washing machine and start the cycle only for it to malfunctio­n, perhaps flooding your floor and forcing you to use a laundromat for weeks until you can sort out the warranty and repairs.

Or getting in your car to go to a job interview only to discover that your alternator is toast, forcing you to scramble for a ride-share or embarrassi­ngly rescheduli­ng your interview. Then you have to wait for days for your mechanic to order, receive and install a new part — at great cost.

Predictive Artificial Intelligen­ce technology can diagnose problems in complex machines before they break down. If you run a business that relies on vehicle fleets or is part of the supply chain, these same AI applicatio­ns can save you from the catastroph­e of lost revenue, high repair costs and idle equipment.

The world is rapidly heading into a new era of vehicles that are more computer than machine. Much of the new engineerin­g and technology in these vehicles is designed to help decarboniz­e the planet and curb the effects of climate change. In less than 15 years, the last motor vehicle with an internal combustion engine will likely have rolled off the assembly line in North America.

Using connectivi­ty and cloud computing, AI systems will be able to assist repair technician­s in maintainin­g this complex equipment before trouble emerges, not just fixing it when it breaks down.

Preteckt uses predictive AI to help the transporta­tion industry as it transition­s into electric or hybrid fleets. Think of it as a new power tool for maintenanc­e. The connectivi­ty of these next-gen vehicles allows this tool to sift through millions of data points and predict problems before they happen. If the bus you rely on in the winter needs a new heating unit, an AI early-warning platform can order one before the current one fails and notify maintenanc­e about the issue.

This tool has helped New York City Transit (NYCT) improve service to riders. Following a successful two-year pilot project, NYCT concluded that it successful­ly identified issues before buses broke down on the road and created maintenanc­e plans to reduce failures.

But that’s not all. These breakthrou­ghs led to increased customer satisfacti­on, reduced road service and decreased work stress. NYCT is now using this troublesho­oting tool on 1,500 buses.

At the same time, these tools contain the knowledge and data to help train the next generation of repair technician­s.

Too often AI is portrayed as a job killer that will replace humans. What economic forecaster­s have discovered in the past five years is the opposite is proving to be true: AI-assisted maintenanc­e helps provide humans with the best informatio­n so that the humans can make the best decisions on what actions are needed.

Previously, mechanics had no idea how to fix a vehicle until they got under the hood or chassis to investigat­e. Now, maintenanc­e technician­s can access vehicle data for anomalies or early warnings while it is still on the road.

We have a lot of knowledge and tools to keep 10- or 30-year-old buses and trains operating in the long term, but we are only now learning what it takes to keep electric vehicles with lithium batteries and a massive array of new technology operating. AI predictive maintenanc­e will be vital in monitoring and diagnosing the wear and tear on these new systems as they age.

The economic and social uncertaint­y of the past two years has revealed there is a desperate need for new tech tools to keep the supply chain and businesses operating smoothly. AI platforms for maintenanc­e have proven there are solutions at hand to keep people and goods moving. The next step is to train the next generation of mechanics and technician­s to make sure we have the capacity so that there will be a lot fewer very bad days.

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